A. The “person” of the Holy Spirit:
Any attempt to comprehend God by use of our human dictionary will surely end in frustration. There is too much earthly baggage hanging on our words. Struggling to use earthly defined words to define that which is beyond this world is certainly a challenge that is faced by every Bible interpreter. Therefore, when reading words that the Spirit used to define His being and work, we must keep in mind that we are using words of this world that often carry with them the earthly baggage of how we use the words in our own lives. We thus caution ourselves in making any definition of God with the use of the words of our dictionary.
In any study of the Holy Spirit, we must seek to understand what the Bible teaches concerning the “person” of the Spirit. With the use of the word “person” we have already limited our understanding of the Spirit. Nevertheless, by using the word “person” we are referring to the individual identity or nature of the Spirit Himself. But keep in mind that our use of the word “person” carries with it our earthly baggage of how we identify ourselves as individuals.
The Holy Spirit is a person of the eternal Elohim. This Hebrew word for God is plural in its use in Genesis 1:1. This “plural” God created the heavens and earth. When God (plural) said, “Let Us make man” (Gn 1:26), the Holy Spirit was a part of the eternal Us that formed man from the dust of the earth. Though the Son of God as a “person” of the eternal Godhead created the world (Cl 1:16), the Holy Spirit could not be separated from the eternal Elohim who worked in partnership with the Father and Son in the creation.
The use of the word “Us” assumes that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit wanted us to understand that Elohim works as one, but are three in nature and function. What is beyond our understanding is that the one true Elohim both works and manifests Himself as a plurality. This does not mean that there are three Gods. It simply means that the one God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could manifest themselves in many different ways in order to carry out their work and function in reference to creation.
The word “Godhead” is used three times in the King James Version to translate either the Greek phrases or words “to theios” or “theiotes,” which words are used in reference to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Acts 17:29 the word “Godhead” is used to translate to theios that is translated by other versions with the English words “divine nature” (NKJV), “divine being” (NIV) or “Deity” (RSV). The word “Godhead” is used to translate theiotes in Romans 1:20 and Colossians 2:9.
The word theiotes refers to the attributes, nature and properties of God as spirit (Jn 4:24). The nature or “property” of God is His plurality. This has confused many Bible students for centuries, and thus we must not think that we can fully understand that to which the inspired writer is referring. One would simply have to be God in order to fully understand the nature of God. The fact that God is spirit is the length to which we can go in understanding the being of God (Jn 4:24). But to say that God is spirit is simply to say that His being is not of this material world.
The Bible reveals three “personalities” or persons of the Godhead, though the words “personality” and “person” as we use them here should not be understood to refer to different natures in person or personality. The Godhead is precisely the same in character and nature. There is no difference between the character and nature of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, the Godhead manifests Himself as three. For example, Paul stated, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Co 13:14). In this one statement Paul mentioned the three “personalities” of the Godhead: the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. This manifestation of three was also revealed at the baptism of Jesus (Mt 3:13-17). Jesus, the Son, was baptized in water on earth. The Holy Spirit descended on Him in the likeness of a dove. But the Father spoke from heaven.
Though the Bible teaches that there is one God (Dt 4:35; 6:4,5; Is 43:10,11; 46:8-11), the one God can be manifested to be in three different “places” in reference to this world. On earth, Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit, but saw in vision the Son at the right hand of the Father (At 7:55-59). There are numerous other statements that manifest this distinctiveness in the “persons” of the Godhead, as well as God being located in reference to our locations as individual persons (See Mt 12:28,32; Jn 11:41; 15:26; 20:17; 1 Tm 2:5). The Holy Spirit, therefore, is a distinct entity of the eternal Godhead in the sense that He has a specific work. He is not distinct in a sense of being separate. He simply has a specific work as part of the eternal Elohim.
It may seem that our struggle to define God, and specifically the Holy Spirit, with the words of man is a confusing ordeal in linguistic gymnastics. This may be true. Our inability to understand how God can be three and yet one does not communicate to our human intellect. Nevertheless, this is how God has manifested Himself to us, and thus, we must be satisfied with our intellectual inadequacies to fully understand.
The Holy Spirit knew that we would be confined to the definition of the words of our dictionary. Nevertheless, He used our words in the best manner they could be used in order to explain God. At the same time, however, He realized that we could never fully understand that which is beyond the definition of our earthly words. We must caution ourselves, therefore, not to dispute with our earthly words concerning things that are beyond the definition of our dictionary. If we do, then we will be tempted to create a god after our own image, one that we can fully understand. And this would be idolatry.
[Next in series: May 3]